Providing a Transition to Independence in Clark County, Nevada
The courtyard at Crossings provides an outdoor gathering place for residents to socialize. Image courtesy of 501 Studios. Saint Jude’s Ranch (SJR), an organization dedicated to providing foster care and keeping families together, has recently expanded its services in Clark County, Nevada to address the issue of homelessness among the area’s young adults. With the local nonprofit developer, Building Hope Nevada (BHN), SJR built Crossings, a 15-unit apartment building for 18- to 25-year-olds who were previously homeless or in foster care. In less than two years since opening, Crossings has shown that housing with supportive services helps residents develop self-sufficiency skills and independence as they begin their adult lives.
Meeting a Local Need
According to Denise Charles, program manager of Crossings, the project was created both out of a realization that the county needed to provide more services for homeless young adults and out of SJR’s desire to reach as many at-risk populations as possible. The Crossings program serves the most difficult cases: those with criminal records or with a history of homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, or sexual abuse/exploitation. Caseworkers meet with clients to develop individual plans for overcoming issues and meeting goals related to stable employment, secure housing, educational attainment, and sustainable life skills. Although the specifics of these plans vary, they generally include taking steps to overcome drug or alcohol abuse, obtaining a General Education Development certificate or high school diploma, enrolling in college or trade school, securing stable employment and income, saving $2,000 or more, and having at least one mentor or positive role model in the community. Clients live at Crossings and participate in the support program for a maximum of 24 months while working toward self-sufficiency.
Establishing Stability and Developing Skills
Job preparedness and financial stability are central to the Crossings program. In addition to securing employment within six months of moving to Crossings — a program requirement for those not enrolled in school — clients take part in services designed to help them obtain and sustain future employment. According to Charles, Crossings staff provide job coaching and connect clients to services made available through the Workforce Investment Act by organizations such as Goodwill and HELP of Southern Nevada. Crossings also provides two computers in the common area as well as 15 laptops that clients can borrow to search for employment and complete homework. Crossings’ location offers convenient access to a shopping center where about half of the current residents work and to several bus routes to other employment opportunities throughout the county.
The program also ensures that clients can find and maintain permanent housing. Clients meet with their caseworkers six months before completing the Crossings program to identify affordable housing options near public transportation. Clients watch a video on the housing search process, practice searching for a place to live, and walk through the process of moving. If obtaining market-rate housing is not a realistic goal, Crossings staff will help the client locate assisted housing options.
Crossings’ clients often include educational attainment goals in their individual plans, which they pursue with the help of various community services and institutions, including the College of Southern Nevada, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and the Vegas PBS Educational Technology Campus. To gain hands-on experience in budgeting and saving, clients with an income are required to pay monthly rent, 90 percent of which is deposited in a savings account for them to redeem on leaving Crossings. Individual and group psychological services are also available as part of Crossings’ holistic approach to addressing homelessness.
Crossings has 15 furnished studio units offering residents the experience of independent living at a low cost. Image courtesy of 501 Studios. Crossings’ building design complements its service programs to help residents develop self-sufficiency and social skills. Each 450-square-foot apartment is equipped with a full kitchen. Residents are entrusted with the freedom to set their own schedules and the responsibility of maintaining their own space, skills that will be necessary when they obtain permanent housing. The building’s architects, LGA, found that prospective residents wanted spaces where they could gather and support each other; the Crossings’ community room, outdoor patio, and clubhouse address those needs. The building also includes a number of practical features, such as ENERGY STAR® appliances to conserve energy and built-in furniture for durability and cost savings.
According to Angela Quinn, managing director of BHN, the site, which was purchased for $35,000, was a foreclosed property located in a community eligible for Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1 (NSP1) funding. NSP1 provided $2 million of the $2.8 million cost of the project. The remaining $800,000 was an award from HUD’s Supportive Housing Program, now a part of the Continuum of Care program.
Enrollment at Crossings has remained at or near capacity since its second month of operation, and 21 clients have graduated from the program and moved to permanent housing. Because of its success with Crossings, SJR has recently secured rapid rehousing funds, which it will use at approximately 19 scattered-site apartments in Clark County to house homeless singles and families whose head of household is between the ages of 18 and 25. In addition, SJR and BHN are hoping to continue their partnership and are exploring possible development projects.